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Published June 17, 2020
Published June 17, 2020
John Salzarulo via Unsplash

Unilever set out a new range of measures and commitments designed to improve the health of the planet by taking even more decisive action to fight climate change and protect and regenerate nature in order to preserve resources for future generations. To accelerate action, Unilever’s brands will collectively invest €1 billion in a new dedicated Climate & Nature Fund to be used over the next ten years.

Alan Jope, Unilever CEO, said in a statement, “While the world is dealing with the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and grappling with serious issues of inequality, we can’t let ourselves forget that the climate crisis is still a threat to all of us. Climate change, nature degradation, biodiversity decline, water scarcity—all these issues are interconnected, and we must address them all simultaneously. In doing so, we must also recognize that the climate crisis is not only an environmental emergency; it also has a terrible impact on lives and livelihoods. We, therefore, have a responsibility to help tackle the crisis: as a business, and through direct action by our brands.”

The companies existing science-based targets are:

  • To have no carbon emissions from owned operations.
  • To halve the GHG footprint of products across the value chain by 2030.
  • To achieve net zero emissions from all products by 2039—from the sourcing of the materials used, up to the point-of-sale products in the store.

Transparency about carbon footprint will be an accelerator in the global race to zero emissions. The company’s goal is to communicate the carbon footprint of every product they sell. To do this, Unilever will set up a system for suppliers to declare, on each invoice, the carbon footprint of the goods and services provided; and will create partnerships with other businesses and organizations to standardize data collection, sharing, and communication.

Unilever has been leading the industry on sustainable sourcing practices for over a decade. Today 89% of its forest-related commodities are certified as sustainably sourced to globally recognized standards. However, they will achieve a deforestation-free supply chain by 2023 by increasing traceability and transparency using emerging digital technologies like satellite monitoring, geolocation tracking, and blockchain.

A pioneering Regenerative Agriculture Code will be implemented for all suppliers. The new code will build on Unilever’s existing Sustainable Agriculture Code, which is widely recognized as being best-in-class in the industry, and it will include details on farming practices that help rebuild critical resources. The Regenerative Agriculture Code will be made available to any organization that may find it useful in an effort to drive change throughout the industry.

Unilever will also direct efforts to preserve water through the implementation of water stewardship programs for local communities in 100 locations by 2030. They will take the learning from the Prabhat program in India and build a model for the water stewardship program, and partner with key suppliers for them to also run similar programs.

Unilever will also join the 2030 Water Resources Group, a multi-stakeholder platform hosted by the World Bank, to contribute to transformative change and building resilience in water management in key water-stressed markets, such as India, Brazil, South Africa, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

To further protect water resources, Unilever aims to make product formulations biodegradable by 2030, to minimize their impact on water and the aquatic ecosystems.

Marc Engel, Unilever Chief Supply Chain Officer, explains, “Our collective responsibility in tackling the climate crisis is to drive an absolute reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, not simply focus on offsetting—and we have the scale and determination to make it happen. But this is not enough. If we want to have a healthy planet long into the future, we must also look after nature: forests, soil biodiversity and water ecosystems. In most parts of the world, the economic and social inclusion of farmers and smallholders in sustainable agricultural production is the single most important driver of change for halting deforestation, restoring forests and helping regenerate nature. In the end, they are the stewards of the land. We must, therefore, empower and work with a new generation of farmers and smallholders in order to make a step change in regenerating nature.”

Alan Jope concluded, “The planet is in crisis, and we must take decisive action to stop the damage, and to restore its health. Last year, we set out a plan to tackle perhaps the most visible environmental issue we have in the consumer goods industry: plastic packaging. We set ourselves new and stretching targets that include halving our use of virgin plastic, and helping collect and process more plastic packaging than we sell. While it’s critical to address the impact that our products have at the end of their life, it’s just as important to continue to look at the impact they have on the planet at the start of their life—in the sourcing of materials—as well as in their manufacture and transport. We will reduce the impact that our products and our operations have on the environment, and we will do our part to bring the planet back to health.”


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